How to Cat-Proof Your Fish Tank

Learn how to keep your fish safe from the cat without compromising your enjoyment or their health! In this article, you’ll learn five helpful, simple methods to keep your cat away from and out of your fish tank.

cat and fishtank

There are many obvious joys and benefits to owning a domestic fish tank, from collecting beautiful freshwater fish to the documented health benefits, but unfortunately, many of the reasons humans love fish tanks also make them attractive to cats. Luckily, there are a few simple steps every cat owner can take to keep their feline friend away from their finny ones, so everyone can live in peace and watery harmony. 

Get a sealed lid or tank cover

This may be the most obvious bit of cat-proofing for a fish tank, but it’s also the most effective. A sealed, solid lid is ideal, and many tanks come with them; this will be harder for your cat to work around and also reduce the enticing sounds and smells coming from the tank. You may have to stack some things on the lid, though, to stop your cat from lying on top of it and stressing out your fish.

Make sure your cat can’t watch your fish

Because of their evolutionary antecedents as stalk-and-kill and ambush predators, cats likely can’t see color very well, but their vision is highly attuned to movement. This means they won’t necessarily appreciate the bright colors in your tank, but they will very likely be absorbed by the rapid back-and-forth movement of the fish and plants. Though letting Whiskers stare intently at your tank from the floor may seem harmless enough, encouraging their fascination with the tank will only increase the likelihood that your cat tries to attack your fish.

Instead, when you aren’t able to directly supervise your cat and your fish, cover the tank with a blanket or other cover. Your fish will still have illumination, from the lights in the tank, but your cat won’t be able to watch them and start thinking they might be dinner.

cat and fishtank

Keep your cat away from the tank stand

In general, any close proximity between your cat and the fish tank is bad news. Any way you can reduce it is a good idea. This might mean putting the tank in a room your cat isn’t allowed into or putting it in a corner or niche where your cat can only access one side. It’s likely unsafe and impractical to put the tank too high for your cat to reach, but you can limit the amount of nearby furniture your cat can use to jump to the tank stand, or otherwise position it to make it difficult for your cat to reach.

Reduce the smells and sounds coming from the tank

Cats use their sense of smell to navigate the world, a lot more than humans do, and they’re also likely to be attracted to the sound of running water coming from the tank. Minimizing these attractants will help keep your cat from developing an unhealthy interest in your fish tank.

For smells, store your fish food away from the tank, ideally in a high, sealed cupboard, and cover the tank with a sealed, solid lid, which will also help tamp down the running water sounds that might attract a thirsty cat. Keeping the tank as clean as possible will also help reduce smells, as well as be good for your fish.

Finally, you can try to cover up the appetizing fish smells with unappealing citrus smells; you can buy these as commercially available cat deterrents, make your own at home, or just use any lemon or orange-scented cleaning product on the area around the tank.  

Give your cat something else to keep them busy

Your cat will be less tempted by the tank if they have lots of other things to occupy their attention. This could be things like jingly toys, scratching posts, food puzzles, cat trees, or even nature programs on TV. Different cats have different preferences, of course, but any or all of these things might keep your cat engaged and fulfill their need for stimulation, exercise, mental challenges, and stretching their predatory instincts, all without endangering your fish. 

Keeping fish and cats in the same house can be a challenge, but it’s far from impossible. A little ingenuity and thoughtfulness are often all it takes to keep every member of the household safe and entertained.

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